AUGUSTA, Maine — The Legislature gave final passage to dozens of bills Thursday night as it attempted to wrap up business this week. The legislation, including a bill to raise Maine’s minimum wage and a measure to require genetically modified food products carry special labels, now heads to the desk of Gov. Paul LePage.
The bill to increase Maine’s $7.50-an-hour minimum wage would raise it annually in three 50-cent increments starting July 1, 2014. After rising to $9 an hour in 2016, the wage would then increase annually based on changes in the consumer price index, the U.S. Department of Labor’s measure of prices paid by consumers for a designated basket of goods and services.
The minimum wage bill passed the House and Senate on largely party-line votes with no Republican support, and LePage is likely to veto the measure. Without Republican support to override a veto, it’s unlikely to become law.
The debate over the genetically modified food products bill was among the most high-profile of this year’s legislative session. The measure would require genetically modified food products carry labels that state they are “Produced with Genetic Engineering.” The bill passed the House and Senate with near unanimous support, and the labeling requirement would only take effect if four other contiguous states pass similar laws.
Another bill that received final passage Thursday would require police obtain search warrants before using unmanned aerial vehicles, known as drones, to collect evidence in criminal investigations.
The three bills were among more than 130 that received approval in both chambers of the Legislature but were held up because most of them required some measure of funding in order to become law, and lawmakers couldn’t act on them until a two-year state budget was in place. That happened Wednesday when the Legislature overrode LePage’s veto of the budget package, which set aside just $1.25 million to spread among more than 130 bills.
Dozens of those bills, including legislation to provide more funding for the state’s public campaign financing system and to increase mileage reimbursements for jurors, will continue to languish due to insufficient funding. The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee will revisit them next year.
Other bills that were cleared for funding Thursday would change the system for funding state-approved charter schools, allow unlicensed dairy farmers to sell up to 20 gallons of unpasteurized — or raw — milk per day, and allow the state Department of Education to review schools’ security plans and emergency preparedness.
Before formally adjourning the first session of the 126th Legislature, lawmakers plan to return on July 9 or 10 to take override votes on any vetoes LePage issues.